Who could resist such an enthusiastic invitation from an adorable ten-year old? I tried to remember the last time I’d played. Maybe when his dad was his age? I felt sure I remembered the rules, though. Keegan set up the board and made his first move. A few moves later, he took my bishop with one of his pawns by moving it diagonally.
“You can’t do that!” I protested. “Pawns can only move forward.”
“Unless they’re capturing a piece.”
Something about his logic did sound vaguely familiar and I began to doubt my memory. “Who taught you how to play chess?” I asked.
He named one of his friends. Figured. Oh well. I’d humor the kid and play by his rules. Then he tried to tell me if my pawn made it all the way to his end, I could exchange it for a captured piece.
“No, no, no, Keegan. You’re confusing it with checkers.”
“Well, that’s how I play.” As if that settled everything.
A few moves later, we began arguing about whether I had his queen in check.
“No Grandma. It’s the king you’re trying to check.”
“No, it’s the queen. You need to protect your queen.” How on earth could we finish a game when we weren’t playing by the same rules? He beat me on the first round, according to his rules. I beat him the second time, but it was a most unsatisfactory win because we were playing two different games.
Finally, in frustration, I grabbed my phone and Googled chess rules. Turns out the kid was right.
Don’t you just hate when that happens?
Keegan didn’t hold it against me or rub it in my face. We played one more game. He beat me fair and square, and I realized a quick brush-up before we started could have prevented a lot of squabbling.
Does this sound at all like life? You’re trying to do your best, maybe in your relationships or at your job—but somebody else isn’t playing by the same rules. How can anyone ever win?
Jesus Christ didn’t play by the rules, either. He came into a world where the law and all its expanded tenets weighed heavily on people’s shoulders. When he went around breaking the rules, the religious rule-makers became so agitated, they plotted to kill him. Religion is crazy, isn’t it?
Want to disarm people? Try following Jesus’ example. A disgruntled customer comes to the counter, yelling and swearing at the clerk who really has no authority over the situation. But instead of playing by the customer’s rules and raising her own voice, the clerk speaks softly.
“I’m so sorry that happened to you. I can understand why you feel angry.”
Often, it’s enough for the person to start calming down. Playing by their rules only escalates the drama.
A neighbor wrongs you. Instead of retaliating or shaming them on social media, you break their rule and seek peace—even in the middle of your pain and loss. You gain a friend, a loyal neighbor. You teach your children the power of forgiveness. You sleep better at night.
Is that possible?
Maybe we should ask some ten-year-olds.